Sorry it has taken me so long to write a new post! I've been waiting until I had some interesting stories and good photos to share.
Work continues along at the same pace - I am still translating lots of documents and working on questionnaires for a diagnostic that the SEJP is about to run on the criminal justice system. With any luck, in the coming weeks I will get to observe some court proceedings or one of the workshops that the SEJP holds and attends.
Two weekends ago I made my first trip back to Guayaquil. Five years ago, in the summer of 2006, I spent a month living there with the family of a friend of my father's from college. I returned to celebrate the New Year during winter break of 2006-2007. I made friends in the city, some of whom even visited me during my freshman year at William & Mary in 2007. Going back to Guayaquil for the first time was such a fun blast from the past - seeing all these places and people that I remembered fondly. In addition to socializing there I also did some work for my law journal and went to the Sunday family luncheon with my hosts, which was fun as many of them remember and know my parents, uncle, and siblings.
This past weekend was my birthday weekend, and I was lucky to have my July 4th birthday off because the SEJP is funded by USAID and celebrates American holidays. I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to do to make the weekend special for myself. I started out on Saturday morning in Quito by venturing down to the colonial center. Here is a picture of the Presidential Palace on the Plaza de la Independencia, also called the Plaza Grande:
But my main destination for the morning was the Convent of Santa Clara. In all of its 415 years, the convent has never previously been open to the public. But this year, the nuns decided to open their doors for the very first time during the months of June and July to hold an exhibit called The Splendor of Quito's Baroque Art. There was something cool about being able to take advantage during my time here of such a rare opportunity, and the works were really beautiful and intriguing. If you want, join in with my Godmother and mom in making fun of me for going to a convent in celebration of my 23rd birthday. Here's a picture of me in the courtyard, the only place we were allowed to take pictures:
From there I headed home to pack my stuff, and I boarded a plane Saturday afternoon back to Guayaquil. Having been in Argentina last summer, I remember that spending one's birthday in a foreign country comes with a certain feeling of isolation - especially when everyone else at home in the United States is getting together for barbecues and holiday fun. So I decided to go back to Guayaquil to spend some of my birthday with people who have known me for longer and who are more familiar with me and my family. I had a great time celebrating with friends and going out to dinner the nights before my birthday. Here is a picture of me with my slice of cake on Birthday Eve:
On the morning of my actual birthday I flew back to Quito (since everyone else had to get back to work and school) and went to the Fundación Guayasamín, a museum that is only open during the week. The museum had three exhibits. The first was Guayasamín's personal collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, including my very favorite face jugs:
The second collection was Guayasamín's personal collection of colonial art, and the last was a collection of his own works. Here's a few images of the grounds:
After that, I had a nice call with my parents from the phone cabins café on the ground floor of my apartment complex and went to my exercise class. All in all, it was a fun weekend spent both seeing the sights like a good tourist should and celebrating with the people who know me best. With any luck, this weekend I'll be venturing into the cloud forest, which is essentially a jungle set high in the mountains that exists in a constant state of mist and fog.
Salutations to all those reading at home!